GREENVILLE — In his young 20 years of life, he was a son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle, friend, mentor and role model. Most proudly, he was a United States Marine.
Lance Cpl. Matthias “Matt” Hanson went to Afghanistan in January of 2010 and lost his life after being hit by enemy fire on Feb. 21, 2010.
The Fighting Falcon Military Museum has put together a display to honor his bravery.
“This is a lasting tribute to my sister’s son,” said Hanson’s uncle Max Watts. “This is here for future generations to see the price we pay for freedom and what we take for granted.”
The museum put together personal pictures, articles and letters of Hanson’s on display along with his uniform.
“There are personal letters from the president and four and five star generals,” said Bill Delp, a member of the museum board. “They are very remarkable things. I have never seen any person who got letters like this.”
From High School to Marines
Hanson, who was born in Germany, moved with his family to Greenville as a young child. During his years in Greenville, Hanson delivered newspapers for The Daily News and played freshman football. He attended Greenville Public Schools until his sophomore year, when he moved to Kentucky to be with his family.
The town of Hodgenville, Ky., with population of about 3,000, is best known for being a few miles from the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
Hanson continued to play football in Hodgenville, playing linebacker for Larue County High School. He developed technological skills and put them to use in helping establish the computer network at the local elementary school.
Hanson graduated from the Larue County High School in 2008, enlisting in the Marines immediately after graduation.
“He was very, very proud to be a Marine,” said Hanson’s mother, Mary Cogswell Huff.
Hanson’s family saw the display for the first time on Aug. 29 after coming back to Michigan for a family wedding. They gathered there again on Friday, where his mother could be seen resting her head on the uniform display remembering her youngest son.
“He is a true hero of our country, particularly of our community,” Delp said of why it was important for the museum to honor Hanson. “This display honors the service, dedication, patriotism and sacrifice of U.S. Marine Cpl. Matt Hanson.”
At the dedication, Cogswell Huff and Hanson’s stepfather, Larry Huff, received a framed quote from World War II journalist Ernie Pyle regarding fallen soldiers.
His deployment to Afghanistan in January was his first assignment outside the country.
Hanson came from a strong military family, including an older brother, Spc. Lowell “Paul” Hanson III, who is serving with the U.S. Army in Germany, and a cousin, Spc. Tyler Kenny, who was stationed in Iraq with the Greenville-based 1073rd Maintenance Company.
Support from Greenville
On Friday, Hanson’s family remembered the day he came back home.
“He was very well received,” said his aunt Lisa Watts. “Crowds had lined the streets.
She said when the family was going to the airport, people had already begun to line up and they had no idea it was for Hanson.
Thousands of people lined the almost 40-mile drive, she said. People holding flags and even small children holding signs at schools and businesses had signs honoring Hanson.
“One that stuck out was a guy who was standing in a huge field with a barn,” Lisa Watts said. “He was standing in the middle of the field saluting.”
Hanson’s cousin Rachel Watts said people hear of fallen soldiers all the time but most never stop to think that that was someone’s family member.
“This makes it more personable,” Rachel Watts said. “This maybe for Matt, but it’s also for anyone who has lost their life (in the military).”
Born to serve
Mary Cogswell Huff said Hanson always knew he was going to be in the military and would ask his family members questions when deciding what branch to go into.
“There was never a question about it,” she said.
Looking at the display, trying to hold back tears, she commented on his piercing-blue eyes and how people remembered him as a big-hearted boy who was always doing things for other people.
She said he would talk to her about other Marine “brothers” who did not have the support he did and would asker her to send them care packages.
“There are still (troops) in harms way,” she said. “He would ask us to include all his brothers when we prayed.”
Many of Hanson’s family members and members of the community helped to put the display to honor Hanson together.
Delp thanked Hanson’s family especially Jennifer Harding who supplied many items to the museum.
Hanson’s entire family said they were grateful for the museum has done.
“We really want to thank Bill and the museum for the display,” Mary Cogswell Huff said. “Especially the Jensen brothers who dedicated their time and materials for the display.”
Hanson’s family wanted to mention donations are still being accepted toward book donations for Baldwin Heights Elementary School in memory of Lance Cpl. Matthias “Matt” Hanson.
Contact the school at (616) 754-3643 for more information.